Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide will look to take down their arch-rival, the Auburn Tigers this weekend down on the Plains while also maintaining their hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff.
After suffering through some early season struggles, the Tide are now playing like one of the elite teams in college football and if Alabama can simply win out, they should find themselves once again competing for the national championship.
On Monday, Coach Saban would take part in the first of his two weekly press conferences to discuss the upcoming rivalry matchup.
Below is everything Coach Saban had to say on Monday:
“Final thoughts on the Chattanooga game basically is we took our opponents seriously and came out and got the result that we wanted. We started fast in the game, executed well. Still lots of things to learn and improve on. Obviously, the Iron Bowl is one of the great rivalry games in college football. Something that you look forward to as a competitor. It’s also something that is a great opportunity to be able to play in. I don’t think that anybody needs to pay attention to what happened in the past, what happened in the last game, what somebody’s record is. Anytime you play in a rivalry game it’s going to be a highly competitive, tough, very physical game, that’s what everybody needs to get ready for.”
“I think Auburn is … Hugh Freeze has done a fantastic job there with his team this year. They’ve played very competitively in all their games. They’re 6-5, they’ve won some games really well but they do a great job of running the football. I think that they’ve got a very difficult offense to prepare for with the multiples that they give you, the different ways that they run the ball, the way the quarterbacks, both quarterbacks really can add to the running game. Tight end, No. 13 is a really good player, really good receiver. No. 5 is a really good receiver. Defensively, they’ve played really well all year long. They got some good players, got some edge rushers, they got some people that create some problems for you as well as they’re very good on special teams, they’re very aggressive in terms of what they do on special teams. They got really good specialists, the kicker and the punter both are leaders in the SEC. This is a challenging game for us and I think our guys need to have a right mindset of what it’s going to take to be successful in a game like this, especially playing on the road.”
On the offensive line
“We’re playing better. I think we’ve made steady improvement. I think the improvement has come from better communication and better technical execution from a technique standpoint, hand placement, foot placement, that kind of stuff, second step on the ground. I think all those things have helped. I think pass protection has improved but that’s something we need to continue to improve on.”
On how Jalen Milroe has protected himself as a runner
“I think Jalen is obviously someone that has great capabilities as a runner. I think he’s been pretty effective in his choices of when to step up in the pocket, when to run, when he has an opportunity to make a play, when he doesn’t. But I think the thing he’s developed is the ability to keep his eyes downfield and make plays in the passing game. Even when the pocket breaks down and I think he’s been an effective runner for us when we’ve had perimeter plays that involve reads on his part to get to the perimeter. I think both those things help us overall offensively in terms of what the defense has to defend.”
On Terrion Arnold’s progress
“Terrion has really done a good job for us. Because of injuries, he’s had to play multiple positions, which has been challenging for him. He’s had to play some Star at times. In some cases, when a guy’s gone out of the game, he didn’t have a lot of reps at it. But he’s been a trooper at doing it and trying to look at it as a challenge and go out and improve each week. His coverage ability has been very good. I think he’s played extremely well.”
On the defensive line depth
“I think we’ve had some young guys that have really come along and shown some improvement. Some of them played toward the end of last games. I feel good about the progress that we’ve made in that group. I just think that our ability to stop the run is going to be critical in this game. For us to play physical on the line of scrimmage and play really good technique with whoever’s playing is going to be the most important thing that we need to do in preparation for this game.”
On his relationship with Hugh Freeze
“I play against all kind of guys and all kind of coaches that coached for me, that I’m good friends with. Whether it was [Bill] Belichick when we were together and then all of a sudden I’m in Miami and he’s in New England. All the guys in college coaching that you have to play against. I’ve always been a guy that has a lot of respect for coaches and what we do to try to promote our name and how we try to impact young people as players. So I think you can have a relationship with somebody and still compete like crazy when you play against each other. But it’s really not personal. The outcome of the game is really not personal. You’re doing the best you can to get your team to play the best, and I respect that as a coach. And you know we’re going to do the best we can to get our team to play the best as a coach. And hopefully people respect that.”
“But at the end of the day, does it have to affect your relationship? I don’t think so. I don’t think you have to dislike somebody or have an adversarial relationship with somebody to actually compete against them.”
On the difficulty of winning at Jordan-Hare Stadium
“If we’re going to have success there, we’re going to have to execute. I mean, any time you play on the road in this league, it’s a difficult place to play. This is no different. But you know, people talk about all the crazy stuff that happens in this game. But since I’ve been here, the team that should have won the game won the game based on who played the best. So I think the focus needs to be on how are we going to play and how are we going to execute and do what we do and what kind of consistency are we going to be able to maintain in a difficult environment. We’ve had this challenge several times before, and this one’s going to be just as difficult as any of the rest.”
On adjusting at halftime vs. in-game
“I think it’s a combination of both. I love Bill [Belichick], don’t get me wrong, but I don’t always agree with him. I didn’t always agree with him when I worked with him. I’m sure he’ll say he didn’t always agree with me. Anyway, we’re making adjustments between every series. We’re going over the previous series, whether it’s offense, defense, or whatever — they ran this stunt, we didn’t block it right, or they ran this formation and we didn’t adjust to it correctly.”
“We also draw those things up as the game progresses so we can actually show the players those plays and some of the things that we did — as, maybe you’ve already covered it, maybe you didn’t have a chance to cover it, but we do both. If there’s something different we want to do, sometimes, you don’t like to do it until you can get everybody in front of you and you can explain it a little better than you can on the sidelines.”
“There are occasions where we want to make adjustments to things when everybody can see it because it doesn’t just affect one group. Sometimes, if we change how we play things, it may affect the outside ‘backers and the inside ‘backers as well. I think both things are really, really important, and both things actually occur during a game.”
On Tommy Rees being a semifinalists for Broyles Award
“Well, obviously, we nominated him, so we think he’s done a pretty good job. I think he’s done a great job of transforming our offense and players and how they’ve improved. I think that’s made a huge difference in the confidence of our team offensively, as well as our team in general. He’s done an outstanding job.”
On if Auburn is more dangerous after losing to NMSU
“I can’t answer that. I just can’t answer that. You’d be better served to ask them that question. I think everybody pays attention when things don’t go well, and they want to get it right. I have enough respect, and we have enough respect, that they’ll probably do the same.”
On if he has ever looked ahead in preparation
“No, I’ve never. In college football, I’ve never done that. In pro football, sometimes you do a little bit of work on the next team, only because it’s really, really difficult. That’s not something that works well for me because I’m focused on what you have to do in that particular game, and I don’t like to commingle different things before that game is over.”
“But I will admit, in pro ball — not because of a particular opponent — it was just the best use of your time. You didn’t practice very long on Friday with the players, then a walkthrough on Saturday, so you had quite a bit more time before you played the game, and you weren’t with players all the time. Here, we’re with the players a significant amount of time. Like Thursday, we practice. Friday, we have walk-through. Friday, we have meetings, we eat with them, then meetings Friday night. You don’t have all those things in pro ball, so sometimes there’s a little time to try and get ahead, but it was not something that ever worked very well for me.”
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